Veganism: Living a Question vs. Fundamentalism

My veganism started out hazy and ignorant, became somewhat fundamentalist, and more recently, has become more honest and nuanced. Here’s a snapshot of that journey.

  1. I began calling myself vegan in 2000, with very superficial knowledge of what that meant.
  2. About a year later I stopped eating non-vegan pie, for which I had made an exception.
  3. Several years after that I gave up all of my leather goods and stopped going to zoos. Until that moment, I hadn’t fully understood and accepted that they weren’t vegan.
  4. A few years after that I learned more about the suffering behind down and we replaced our duvet with a new, synthetic comforter.
  5. I came into an understanding of animal personhood and briefly became a very fundamentalist vegan. I felt anger with the human species, and judged people who displayed any ethical inconsistencies.
  6. I realized that the cats outside my apartment were dying, and ended up adopting several kittens when I was assured they could be fed a vegan diet.
  7. The vegan diet didn’t work out for the cats, and I began buying animal products to feed to them. I still called myself vegan but I had become self-critical, and had come to view my transgressions as just that: transgressions, wrongs.
  8. A few years passed; I became an environmentalist for all species’ sakes and stopped buying new things. I adopted a used chair with down-stuffed cushions, and to this day feel the need to nervously confess this to people when they admire it.
  9. Silverfish live in my home. I have killed some of them intentionally, something I’d never done before. It feels like an act of desperate self-defense; we have a baby and a home to protect here, and silverfish multiply so rapidly that living peacefully and healthily with them seems to be an impossibility… so I’m putting myself and my family over their lives, which I know isn’t really fair. After killing these insects I’ve begun to question whether I am truly vegan. My other inconsistencies are more clear to me now, and I accept them more honestly.

I live in two worlds. In one world, I’m not vegan enough. My inconsistencies are unforgivable acts of exploitation: For instance, I need to give up palm oil right now instead of waffling about it. No more bug killing. Give away that chair.

In the other world, I’m so vegan I drive people crazy. I actually created this site so I’d have an outlet for my vegan energy, because when I talked about this stuff with the same frequency and enthusiasm in my other blogs and social media accounts, I guess I bothered people. Even today, when I’m really holding back all the time and focusing for the most part on human rights and environmental sustainability, I still get accused of “only caring about animals.”

So which is it: Am I too vegan, or not vegan enough? Should I be more worried about whether I’m making people uncomfortable, or fitting into a particular box – or more worried about whether I’m behaving as ethically as I possibly can?

Honestly, I’ve started thinking about renaming this blog so it doesn’t claim that I’m vegan. I’ve been thinking that I should focus on intersectionality instead.

On one level this is disappointing for me, because it reminds me of Bust Magazine’s sad interviews, wherein they always ask the cover lady, “are you a feminist?” and for years, the ladies almost always said, “No, no, I don’t want to be associated with feminism. But I do care about women’s rights.” That is to say, I love veganism and I want to claim it, and I want to promote it. But I’m feeling increasingly alienated by the vegan community, and more and more in love with the critical discourse of intersectionality, with all of its honest complexity and rough edges.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this subject. Let me know what you think.

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